The small crowd disperses. The air
hums with fragmented hymns. Sunday
always feels too vague, the hills
burdened with what Yeats called “autumn
glory” and others call “sorrow
of leaf-fall.” Somewhere a python
digests a full-grown man. Somewhere
a bomb erupts in a trash can.
Somewhere a mob of rapists
plots to ravish a tiny village
where the men have died in war.
Here in the brassy roadside weeds
of New Hampshire, plastic bottles
sulk unredeemed, little crimes
that define us. I consume
more than my share of culture,
but like the snake spend little time
with mastication and far too long
with digestion. This afternoon
the slant of light re-sculpts the trees
to suggest a Halloween terror
not even tiny children believe
but everyone wishes were real.
I recall the garage down the street
where a man hanged himself to prove
his love for his unfaithful wife.
More than half a century ago
I tormented myself by staring
into the dark of that ruin
until I saw the hanged man hanging
and forced him to catch my eye.
The creak of rope on rafter
still lingers. The whisk and shudder
of windy leaves across the highway
suggests many lost conversations;
but my foolish attempt to talk
to that hanged man is my only
instance of self-defining speech.
Guzzling Red Wine with Woody
A restaurant-bar off Broadway.
Guzzling red wine with Woody,
I rant about bell curves, pensions,
and the state of the arts. The waiter
blushes when I claim Boolean
algebra has sinned against the heart.
Woody nods, scanning the room.
His red hair has faded, leaving
his lumpy features exposed.
I want to explain why photographs
trump the landscape of the body
in a truly hedonistic world.
But the words become silt choking
a famous river in Europe,
and the English language resists
my palate, assuming sharp angles
derived from Greek. Woody sighs,
recalling his many lost loves.
They don’t stay lost, their faces
drifting over Central Park, their smiles
busy as chemical sunsets,
their angelic poses threatening.
I explain in sharp-cornered speech
why love between men and women
no longer seems as natural
as garnets blossoming in schist,
and describe a paradigm shaped more
like a haunted house, every room
glowing blue and uttering groans.
Woody doesn’t dispute me,
but we’ve drained two expensive bottles
of cabernet, and the opera begins
in ten minutes. The waiter, pleased
with his tip, waves us goodbye,
and our last tatters of small talk
leave hints of tears in his eyes.